Rules of Winemakers
Minsk winemakers know how to produce high-quality wine
Minsk winemakers know how to produce high-quality wine
There are some goods that are impossible to produce domestically. I am not talking about energy resources or essential raw materials or products. There are some consumer goods that we are used to having around but cannot produce ourselves due to our history or climate. Wine is among them. There are not so many success stories when a northern country has managed to find its niche in the alcoholic beverages market. One of them is Germany. The Germans
it is no accident that import-substitution has become an idee` fixe in Belarus. too many things that we can produce ourselves are imported due to old habits or ignorance. in some rare cases importing goods is better than making them domestically because of their low prices. Yet, the majority of the Belarusian imports are not justified. and the only reason for that is either laziness of sellers or lack of initiative of producers.
have managed to not only take a grip of their domestic market with their liqueurs but have also created brands that became popular all around the world. Yet this is not a typical example as German alcohol producers owe their success to Germany’s drinking traditions and the fact that they use grain alcohol to make strong spirits rather than grapes required for production of wine.
In recent years local winemakers have been trying to grow vine in the southern regions of Belarus with a view to launching the production of wine and brandy. Of course, I wish them luck. But we have to be realistic here – even if the local wine manages to find its way to our tables and our minds, it will only do so in the capacity of the ordinary table wine to accompany everyday meals.
Yet thanks to the growing incomes and greater travel opportunities many Belarusians get familiar with the Western wine drinking culture. We tried wines from different countries and continents and we now know the difference. In the last ten years many of our friends have literary turned into true wine connoisseurs who are able to tell the difference between South African Chardonnay and Australian Sauvignon. To substitute these wines with the domestic produce made from grapes cultivated in yet non-existent vine groves of Gomel Oblast and Brest Oblast will not be possible. As the quality of wine depends on the sort of grapes, soil, number of sunny days in a year, average annual temperature, winemakers’ skills, methods and terms of aging, hundreds of years of tradition after all! This is a fact.
So do we have no choice but to import? Will we never be able to make a decent substitution to French, Italian or even Moldavian and Georgian wines?
Substitution, not Replacement
Experts of Minsk Grape Wines Factory believe in the opposite. Although they agree that it is impossible to make wine of the same quality as in France and Italy in our climate, it does not mean that the Belarusians are doomed to drink imported wine paying to foreign
businessmen for the whole production process.
Wine production is a long technological chain that includes processes that cannot be carried out in Belarus due to objective causes (for instance, vine cultivation, wine production, aging in special oak barrels with certain temperatures and humidity, etc.), but there are also operations that are quite doable here. Given the Belarusian wine factories are adequately equipped, of course.
From a producer’s point of view, before wine is blended and bottled, it is not really wine, but rather wine material. It is much cheaper to import wine material than to buy bottled wine abroad. This is the import-substitution strategy of Minsk Grape Wines Factory (trademark Ambassador). By bottling wine made of imported wine material at its own premises the factory manages to meet the country’s growing demand for high-quality grape wines simultaneously saving on foreign currency expenses.
The factory with experienced manager at its helm Denis Moroz has introduced quite a number of innovative solutions that had never been used in Belarus before.
Thus, for the first time ever the Belarusian wine factory put together a team of the most experienced technologists headed by Ivan Trotsky, Deputy Director, Technologies and Production. He is a top-notch specialist, a connoisseur of wine and other alcoholic beverages with a great vision for the global wine market development.
For the first time ever in Belarus Minsk Grape Wines Factory has introduced a cold wine bottling technology which does not require warming the wine up before bottling at the last production stage. Warming up (pasteurization) affects the taste, aroma and consistency of wine. Cold bottling allows preserving all the rich palette of taste that the winemakers want to deliver to their customers.
And finally, Minsk Grape Wines Factory experts were the first Belarusian winemakers to reach the global wine industry level by signing long-term strategic agreements and establishing partnership relations with the best winemakers from France, Moldova, Georgia and Italy, true leaders of the industry which seems to be pretty closed for newcomers.
Di Cosimo is a well-known large wine producer in Italy. It was the first Italian company to advance into the Belarusian market and start direct shipments of wine material to Minsk Grape Wines Factory.
“Our partners in Belarus are great,” Signor di Cosimo said in an interview with our correspondent when asked to describe the level of cooperation which is, in fact, not yet a year old. “Yes, they are demanding, but reliable. And cooperation prospects with Minsk colleagues are most promising. We hope that every year we will double the amount of wine shipped to the Belarusian market,” added Signor di Cosimo.
Today Belarus produces four types of Italian wines: red and white semi-sweet Grandi Vini di Roma in tetra packs, and semidry white and red bottled Castelli
Romani Bianco and Castelli Romani Rosso. It takes just a few days to deliver wine in modern wine-tanks to Minsk. So wine does not lose its quality during the journey, says Denis Moroz.
At this point I suspect some “know-it-all expert” would interrupt us saying: “Hold on! Semidry? Semi-sweet? But the Italians themselves prefer dry wines. And it is the dry wine that matures in French oak barrels in the cellars of Di Cosimo”.
Well, that is right. The Italians drink and make, of course, dry wines, and your humble servant was in those cellars where this wonderful product is maturing. But ...
Every country has its own tastes, says Ivan Trotsky when explaining the logic of consumer preferences. Sweet wine is still most popular in Belarus. Semi-dry goes second.
To make, for example, semisweet wine, dry wine is blended in certain proportions with concentrated grape juice, which gives wine characteristic sweetness. This juice is also supplied by Di Cosimo that applies the latest technology to make it.
They treat the concentrate with cold, says Ivan Trotsky. They do not boil it or evaporate it. As a result, the juice has excellent organoleptic properties and does not change the “body” of wine or affect its taste.
By the way, the Italian partners regularly check the quality of the wine bottled in Minsk for compliance with the Di Cosimo standards. Pierpaolo Di Cosimo, the head of the family business, says that the Belarusian product is identical to the wine made in Italy both in terms of its chemical composition and organoleptic and taste properties.
They say trust, but verify. We went to Italy to see the vineyards of the Di Cosimo company in the Lazio region, which is situated between Rome and Naples. Beautiful! Straight rows of vines not higher than a man’s height are dotted with bunches of ripening grapes. Workers clean the bushes every day from unnecessary sprouts and berries of poor quality to make sure the plants “use their juices most efficiently”. Each vine gets water through rows of hoses.
We also took a tour of the factories of the company, got familiar with the equipment such as grape presses, juice brewing tanks. We also visited the room where wine matures. For three years at least it ages in French oak barrels to produce a bright, intense, memorable and unique taste.
Still, the preferences of our customers change. Dry wine is getting more popular with Belarusians. Now we are completing the final preparations to start producing the Italian dry wine that is so much appreciated in the Apennines. Especially since we are the only ones in the country who use the cold bottling technology which does not alter the taste and properties of wine.
Soon our customers will be able to buy wine from a Vatican supplier. Di Cosimo has been the official wine supplier of the Holy See for many years. Two pontiffs were born in the Lazio region, and they preferred wine from their home region. Since then, says Signor di Cosimo, the brands “Corte dei Papi” (The Papal Court), “Colletonno”, “Villa Ferrari” are officially delivered to the Vatican.
We intend to increase the production of natural grape wines on franchising terms up to 30%, says Denis Moroz, the director of Minsk Grape Wines Factory. Bottling of wine on the franchising terms means that the wine producer trusts our company and the quality of the product we manufacture.
Franchising, or the production of wine under the brands of wellestablished manufacturers, does a good job of promoting wine drinking culture in our country.
Wine Drinking Culture
I wish we would learn to drink wine the way they do it in the di Cosimo family some day!
Pierpaolo can talk about wine for hours, what it means for the Italians and how they drink it. We would only like to note here that, as evidenced by the statistics, Italy is Europe’s leader in wine consumption: 54 liters per capita per year! But, as Signor di Cosimo says, Italians drink wine not to get drunk.
Every day Pierpaolo treats himself to two glasses of wine - at lunch and dinner. In the afternoon, when it is hot Signor di Cosimo prefers cold dry white wine. Dry red wine which has a wonderful warming property is usually served at family dinners in the evening.
Red wine is closer to the soil. It is filled with vital juices. That is why it is more passionate, more eveningtype, explains Pierpaolo.
On family occasions Italians open a bottle of spumante, a light sparkling wine. If it is a romantic date, it is usually red wine. If it is a business dinner then it is white wine that can be easily diluted with ice-cold mineral water from mountain springs. But the Italians never have wine for no reason or because they want to get tipsy.
I do not understand how anyone can drink wine just for the sake of drinking, Signor di Cosimo shrugs his shoulders in bewilderment. Wine is part of the meal. It goes with certain food. Wine, according to our Italian laws, is considered food. One kind is preferable with some dishes, another with some other food ... But in any case, to have a glass of wine with no food to follow just to get tipsy is unacceptable for us!
In other words, when we drink we take some food with the drink. The Italians have wine to accompany food and enjoy the taste of their wonderful cuisine. This is the fundamental difference between their culture of wine drinking and our drinking habits.
Thus, Minsk Grape Wines Factory in strategic partnership with the Italian company Di Cosimo purposefully increases the exposure of Italian wines on the Belarusian market and, from an economic point of view, reduces foreign exchange expenses on buying ready-bottled wines. But not everything in this world is measured by economic parameters. It is not by chance that the Belarusian government, year after year, through quotas and other administrative tools, has been working to bring structural changes in the Belarusian production of alcoholic beverages, encouraging the producers to make high-quality wines.
The policy has borne fruit. In H1 2011 Belarus’ grape wines production grew by 25% in comparison with the same period of last year. The share of grape wines on the market amounted to 15%. Import went down by 3%.
The experience of Minsk Grape Wines Factory can be recognized as exemplary. These are the universal rules of true winemakers, which this particular company works hard to cultivate in Belarus.
Minsk Grape Wines Factory Director Denis Moroz and head winemaker
Ivan Trotsky visit the family enterprise Di Cosimo
This year’s grape harvest matures under the sun in the Lazio region, Italy
Tanks for wine materials at Di Cosimo’s winery near the town of
The favorite wine of His Holiness and… the Belarusians!